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Design & Build Low-Fidelity Prototypes

From Napkin Drawing To Prototype

50% OFF + FREE LESSON + FREE 7-DAY TRIAL

Make real progress on your animatronics goals by designing, building and testing a spider prototype in real-time with me. Access our entire library of past course broadcasts plus a new LIVE course every month!


Learn By Doing

Start Now – Watch the First Lesson Free!

I’ve always been fascinated by animatronics and their ability to bring characters and robots to life! But without a formal engineering background or movie effects experience, I always felt my ideas would forever live on paper.

It was my love of Halloween props that got me building my first mechanisms. I created this course to start you where I did, with a popular Halloween favorite – an animated spider. Using only a pencil drawing, some store-bought items and common tools, together we’ll apply the same engineering design process that NASA uses to solve problems in order to build the mechanisms that will transform our idea into a working prototype.

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STREAMING LIVE 9/20 at 6 PM EST

What We’ll Do Together

APPLY NASA’s ENGINEERING DESIGN PROCESS TO MAXIMIZE SUCCESS

Work through the same series of steps that their engineers use to find solutions to problems so we can drill down to the best designs for the functionality we want.

USE INEXPENSIVE MATERIALS TO TEST OUR IDEAS

Modify and rig household items and store-bought materials to build a low-cost working prototype of our final product.

BUILD 3 MOVING MECHANISMS

Build your first mechanisms to move the spider’s legs, control a motorized base and deploy a web shooter.

WRITE CODE FOR OUR SERVOS & MOTORS FROM SCRATCH

Starting with a basic knowledge of Arduino, we’ll keep coding out our sketch together to include each electronical component so we can control our servos and motors.

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Live Lessons

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Every new animatronics and mechanical FX project should start with a working prototype. They not only improve our designs, but provide a budget-friendly test of our concept before committing to final production. In order to go from an idea drawn on paper to the build stage we’ll apply the same engineering design process developed and used by NASA to come up with the best possible solutions to the design challenges we’ll face with our animated spider prop.

From the simple to the complex, the Engineering Design Process can be applied to any prototype or design project and greatly reduces the guesswork and resulting “2 steps forward 1 step back” moments that are a natural part of innovation.

LESSON CONTENT:

  • Outline the goals for the design and function of our spider prop.
  • Identify limitations or boundaries of the project including available materials, budget and time-frame.
  • Brainstorm ideas for the different components and features of our spider prop.
  • Research possible solutions including existing designs, mechanical construction and materials.
  • Select the best ideas and plan out the steps of the build.
  • Mock up the main components of our spider prop.

With a solid design plan, we’ll start blocking out and sculpting the main parts of the spider’s thorax and head out of styrofoam. This material is a great choice for low-cost, light-weight props for your films, haunts or cosplay projects. I’ll show you how to transfer our design onto a block of styrofoam and then carve it down into a 3-dimensional form.

LESSON CONTENT:

  • Sketching your design.
  • Transferring your design onto a block of styrofoam.
  • Making your first cuts.
  • Blocking out the main forms.
  • Texturing with a rotary tool and heat gun.

We tackle the first mechanical challenge of our animated spider prototype which is building a simple mechanism to move the legs. For this, we’re going to borrow a movie effects trick used for prototyping the Terminator’s hand and Hell Boy’s Right Hand of Doom. But since we don’t have any off-screen puppeteers like in the movies, our legs are going to have to move on their own.

Servos are among the most important components used for movement and we’ll determine the best strategy for attaching them to the legs and then write a simple Arduino program to control them.

LESSON CONTENT:

  • Leg mechanism design.
  • Attaching servos and rigging the legs.
  • Wiring the servos and providing a dedicated power supply.
  • Writing an Arduino program to move the legs.

No spider is complete without a web but our spider doesn’t weave them, it shoots them out of its mouth! We’ll build a mini spring-loaded web shooter out of household items and then cleverly conceal it under a trap door under the spider’s head. When triggered by us or perhaps a motion detector, a servo pulls the trap door open causing the spider’s head sitting on top of it to pivot upwards and reveal the web shooter. By the time our victims …err …trick-or-treaters realize their peril, it will be too late!

LESSON CONTENT:

  • Building the web shooter pop up mechanism.
  • Rigging the web shooter trigger to a servo.
  • Writing an Arduino sketch to control the web shooter mechanism.

In order to give our prey no chance of escape, we’ll also add a motorized wheel base that we can control with a phone through a bluetooth module – much like a RC vehicle. A motor driver will control 2 DC motors with wheels in the back and we’ll use a swivel caster to support the front. After mounting and wiring the DC motors, we’ll write our Arduino program to get them running and communicating via bluetooth.

We’ll also come up with a strategy for housing and concealing the electronics and power supply we need to run all the effects for our animated spider prop.

LESSON CONTENT:

  • Motorized base and housing design.
  • Attaching DC motors to the base.
  • Wiring the motors, motor driver and power supply.
  • Interfacing with the bluetooth module and using a phone app.
  • Adding motor remote control to our Arduino sketch.

Red LED eyes are a Halloween haunt staple and our prototype wouldn’t be complete without them. We’ll wire up flickering red LED spider eyes and even play around with some creepy sound FX by hiding a small speaker in the skull along with an amplifier module.

LESSON CONTENT:

  • Wiring flickering LEDs and choosing the right resistors.
  • Controlling multiple LEDs with Arduino code and coordinating the lighting effects with the spider’s movement.
  • Working with speakers and triggering samples from the micro SD card reader.

Taking a Course is Just The Beginning


Your maker journey doesn’t end at the last lesson. Accelerate your growth with our Workshop Social virtual build sessions and a supportive and inspiring group of peers as a member of our Artistic Engineering community.

In addition to this course, members have access to:

COURSES

  • All live and on-demand courses for a more well-rounded skillset.
  • All course activity feeds.
  • Updates & revisions to all courses.

WORKSHOP SOCIAL

  • LIVE virtual community making sessions where we dedicate time to our projects, share skills, showcase what we’re working on, ask questions and interact with peers.

COMMUNITY

  • A community of supportive and engaged makers who are excited to offer encouragement, accountability, and feedback on your projects (including me).
  • A mobile app to help you stay connected with our community anywhere, anytime.

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Rachel

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Build & Code in Real-time WIth Me


Whether you prefer to keep up with the live lessons or go through them on demand at your own pace, you benefit from the same build- and code-along experience and you’re never alone on your creative journey. Along with me, our community is open 24/7 to review assignments, provide feedback and help you troubleshoot projects.

MATERIALS

What you need to get started


Although you can watch and participate without building anything, getting hands-on with the process is where the real learning and growth happens. Each lesson has a list of tools, supplies and materials you’ll need to build and code along.

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